Sunday, February 02, 2014

A thought about indicators.

There is an interesting article in The Economist about indicators of the outcomes of medical treatment. It points out that data bases of medical records are allowing computation of multiple indicators of outcomes, which may lead to better decisions by patients and better management of health services.

The article cites a result from Germany, where 5 year survival rates after prostate surgery are similar for all clinics.
(G)ood health means more than life or death. Thanks to a study in 2011 by Germany’s biggest insurer, a sufferer now knows that the national average rate of severe erectile dysfunction a year after removal of a cancerous prostate gland is 76%—but at the best clinic, just 17%. For incontinence, the average is 43%; the best, 9%. 
My family and I belong to Kaiser Permanente, an HMO. The article states:
Kaiser Permanente, which operates in nine states and Washington, DC, pools the medical records for all its centres and, according to McKinsey, a consultancy, has improved care and saved $1 billion as a result.
It is always desirable to find the right index to provide the information for specific decisions. (For example, looking only at the public debt is probably not a good idea in deciding on fiscal policy. The debt to GDP ratio is probably better, and even better is to deal with a variety of indicators, including unemployment, rate of change of GDP, consumer confidence, business confidence, etc.) In evaluating health services, multiple indicators (and good indicators) are also important.

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